Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
Orthodox Church in America
/ Ministries / Parish Development / Renewal & Revitalization
Parish Renewal and Revitalization

The heart of the parish development ministry is helping parishes to take a serious look at themselves and to work together to live a life in Christ.

Below you will find a wealth of articles, tools, presentations, templates, and stories that can begin to help.

Parish Health Inventory Model
Parish Health Inventory Model
Parish Health Inventory Model
The Orthodox Parish Health Inventory Model

Once a parish starts on a path of revitalization and renewal there will be no shortage of opinions of "what's wrong". In situations when a parish is in decline everything gets questioned and opinions are polarized. Everyone sees the problem differently.

The Parish Health Inventory Model can provide valuable structure to that conversation. By offering a specific set of focus areas it enables groups to move past debating and emotion into fact based conversations on Gospel centered issues and to get busy with building or rebuilding vitality into the parish. The model helps get people on the same page.

Based on the collective insight and experiences of over a dozen Orthodox parishes in America, the model collects the practices and principles that seem to be working to capsulize what we know --and what we don't know --about building healthy hopeful 21st century Orthodox parishes in America.

Explore this further...

Diet and Exercise for Parishes

We Need Money & Members - But On Our Terms
During a recent visit too a small parish, we were asked at coffee hour to offer our spur of the moment/ top of mind suggestions for the parish to "help them." Before responding we asked what they saw as their most important challenges. Not surprisingly the reply was M&M - "money and members". ("We can't pay the bills." "Our assets are depleting." "We're shrinking.") After duly noting that 'M&M' are long term challenges with no silver bullet solutions, we nonetheless dipped in to our universal list of memorized "GoTo suggestions" to offer four potential starter action items. With each suggestion the parishioners shared why those "just won't work here".


Creating Vibrant Orthodox Parishes

Offered as a workshop at the 16th All American Council in Seattle this Powerpoint presentation, delivered by Fr. Jonathan Ivanoff and Joseph Kormos, offers a summary of root casues of parish decline -- and some prescriptive and proscriptive advice for getting started with a revitalization effort. Download the slide presentation here.

Fr. Thomas Hopko: The Orthodox Parish in North America

Fr Thomas Hopko offered his reflection on the crtical qualities for vibrant Orthodox parishes in America during his keynote at 13th AAC in Orlando in 2002. His keys fall into four categories:

  • HEART: Liturgical Worship and Sacramental Service

  • SOUL: Spiritual Life and Pastoral Care

  • MIND: Education and Enlightenment

  • STRENGTH: Mission and Philanthropy

Read article here.

Choirs and Choir Lofts

Eight Good Reasons to Sing Downstairs
An Opinion

Twenty years or so ago a large choir singing elaborate liturgical music from a choir loft was a common characteristic of many parishes. Today that is much less the case. To us that seems like a good trend. Read more...

OCA Parish Practices Profile

A survey of Parish Practices conducted in advance of the 13th All American Council in Orlando still provides useful insights to asses your parish.

Read a brief summary here.

See the entire survey summary here.

All is Well at St. Xxxx

C.S. Lewis once said, "The greatest danger is the illusion that all is well." When it comes to parish renewal these words take on special meaning. This article analyzes some of the mechanism of complacency --and change. Read article >>>


Created to summarize a recent set of workshops in the Archdiocese the following two documents provide an effective summary of many good ideas of parish renewal and revitalization. Find them here and here.

Potential Project List

Looking for some renewal projects for your parish? A list of possibilities can be found here.

Father Daniel Rentel – A Recollection of Healthy Parish Practices

The 2023 Parish Development Forum was dedicated to the memory and legacy of recently departed Archpriest Daniel Rentel. Father Daniel, the priest in numerous Western Pennsylvania parishes as well as parishes in in Columbus, Cincinnati and Byesville OH, was the prime mover behind the Forum which was originally known as the Small Parish Forum.

Since these pages are generally dedicated to identifying and illuminating practices of healthy N. American Orthodox parishes, we thought it useful to remember some of the more unique and important practices associated with Father Daniel’s priesthood.

Click here for full article... The Worshipping Parish...urban minstry... leadership...membership and more

Tips for Better Preaching

Feedback from Experienced Priests

A retired senior priest contacted us to say that as he regularly visited a variety of parishes he was surprised by what, to him, was a generally low quality of preaching. He suggested we develop an article about same.

After some reflection we felt the topic was, and is, important. We contacted four senior priests from three OCA Dioceses with preaching experience easily exceeding 100 years. We asked them to share tips and insights on preaching. We also solicited suggestions from two lay persons, with over ninety years of listening, and both with some speaking experience.

In summary they told us:

* Preach the Gospel  * Get into it quickly * Use good rhetorical techniques  * Occasional self-deprecation * Start preparation early and in earnest * Have an exit strategy

Here is the full article.

When Parishes Close Themselves

When working with parishes we often ask "How long do you want your parish to live?" The reply is always the same. "Forever". Sometimes robust -- sometimes tentative. (Though one honest woman admitted her horizon of concern was only until "after I die!")


Mission Revitalization Teams Bring Hope and Love

In recent years teams of adults and teens from multiple Orthodox parishes have become missionaries. The  focus has been to assist Orthodox parishes in need of renewal by providing a loving presence and physical refurbishment to Orthodox parishes in inner city Philadelphia and, more recently, small towns in Western Pennsylvania.


Triple Digit Parish Anniversaries

Can we harness the natural nostalgia of major parish milestones? Can they provide an opportunity to look forward --while remembering past accomplishments. This article attempts to answer that question. Read more.

Observable Traits of Vibrant Orthodox Parishes

We're often asked a version of the question:"How can our parish become more healthy and hopeful." We always refer people to the Orthodox Parish Health Inventory.  It is a reasonably comprehensive overview of important areas of focus. But at 60+ pages, using the inventory can involve some real work. 

However sometimes it is important provide a crisper answer. As part of our recent webinar series we offered a simple list of observable traits that often standout when we visit parishes. What factors would have made us want to return?  We called it 21 Observable Traits of Vibrant Orthodox Parishes. Read more

Growing Parishes: Areas of Commonality and Difference

The Parish Health Inventory model was an outgrowth of a Summit held in OCA's Midwest Diocese in 2008. It afforded an excellent opportunity to "dig in" to understand the qualities of a dozen or so growing Orthodox parishes. In doing so it became clear that they shared some common practices and charateristics. Yet these parishes were not entirely alike.

To understand more read:

How to Wake Up a Sleeping Church

A recent podcast on Ancient Faith Radio  by Fr. Evan Armatas of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese speaks of the steps used to plant a Greek Orthodox Mission in Loveland, Colorado. It  provides useful insights into critical qualities of healthy parishes.  If you can't spare the approximately 30 minutes to listen to the talk, a thumbnail summary, provided by Father Armatas, can be found here.

Attitudes That Enable the Church to Grow

Written by Father John Matusiak in 1986 as part of the OCA's "Heating Up a Lukewarm Church" initiative, the booklet "Church Growth and Evangelization ‐ the Basis and the Basics" still offers useful insight. One favorite aid is a table that compares attitudes that enable churches to grow with those hold it back.

Find the list here.

Decline in Your Parish -- Complacency or Action?

Time to face facts?
Time to face facts?
Time to face facts?

Many parishes – of all dioceses, jurisdictions and denominations are facing numerical declines. What can be done?

For those looking to explore new ideas here are some thoughts: 

Five Qualities of Succesful Parishes in America

Alexei Krindatch
Alexei Krindatch
Alexei Krindatch

A study of Orthodox parishes in America, conducted by Alexei Krindatch of the Patriarch Athenagoras Institute identified five characteristics of successful parishes. These were:

  1. Openness to diversity among parishioners

  2. Connectedness to the local community


Link to full study >>